aka “Nobody puts Puppy in a corner.”
Today’s roundup features Rebecca Ann Smith, Nick Mamatas, Vox Day, Kate Paulk, John C. Wright, Ridley Kemp, Martin Wisse, Damien G. Walter, Lis Carey, Brian Niemeier, Joe Sherry, Tom Kratman, Joe Sherry, Lisa J. Goldstein, Katya Czaja, and Kevin Standlee. (Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Kary English and Hampus Eckerman.)
Rebecca Ann Smith
“Who Owns Popular Culture?” – May 21
Something very weird happened in the run up to this year’s prestigious Hugo awards, voted for by science fiction fans. In the culmination of a long campaign against what they see as the takeover of the awards by liberals, progressives and feminists, a right-leaning group calling themselves the Sad Puppies, led by author Brad Torgersen, successfully lobbied for an approved slate of books to receive nominations.
Although the Sad Puppies actions are legal within the rules of the Hugos, they have also been controversial. Some people feel it’s not playing fair, and others are concerned by their motives.
Way back when the ballot was announced, I said that fandom shouldn’t bother trying to change the rules. (Hugo rules change too frequently as it is.) http://nihilistic-kid.livejournal.com/1920331.html
There are three options as far I can tell:
The Hugos being a product a fandom, much of the discussion around “fixing” the issue boils down either angry blog posts about white people (ie, admissions of pathetic whining defeat) or statistical wonkery (ie foolishness). These are all wrongheaded—slating is essentially a political issue, and political issues need political responses. There are three possible ones:
- Suck It Up. Probably a pretty good idea. This bed was made some years ago when blogging culture sparked a shift from significant social sanction when people tried to get votes by asking publicly for consideration to “obligatory” posts promoting their own work, and later, the work of their friends. Loud Blogs win; Loud Blogs Plus Online Workshop-Clubhouses win more; and Loud Blogs plus political discipline win even more. Why should only the Loud Bloggers people have decided that they personally like and are “friends”* with win? Eventually, it’ll all even out, especially as what is most likely to happen is that the SPs get nominated and then lose decisively year after year.
- Castigate all campaigning, not just the campaigning you don’t like Pandora’s Box isn’t necessarily open forever. However, you can’t close half a lid. It would take significant effort to change widespread attitudes, but it is not as though those attitudes have not changed before. If campaigning was always met with eye-rolling or even outright disgust, it would stop being so effective. Some people would betray and try to promote, but if the audience was inured to such appeals, it just wouldn’t work and hopefuls would eventually stop.
- Counter-slates We’ll almost certainly see attempts at counter-slates. I’m against the idea, but the current cry to vote “No Award” in all SP-dominated categories is itself a counter-slate after a fashion. Someone will come up with Happy Kittens and stump for non-binary PoCs or stories with lots of scene breaks or or or…well, that’s the problem. One counter-slate would likely thwart the SPs, more than one would not. And we’re sure to see more than one. Disciplined slate voting works best when only one side does it and the other side isn’t even a side. Two slates split demographically. Three or more, uh… At any rate, it all comes around to political discipline again. If some party were to launch a counter-slate next year, would others who found that slate imperfect let it by without critique and another alternative slate. (There are actually two Puppy slates, but they are largely similar.) There can be slates that are so attractive that many more people sign up to vote for the Hugos, but I strongly suspect that people overestimate the amount of outside “pull” these slates have; general Hugo chatter across blogs and Twitter in general is driving increased education about supporting Worldcon memberships, and then there are all the free books voters might receive, which is also a new thing. One counter-slate would be effective, though of course the cure could be worse than the disease, and more than one would likely not.
So aggrieved Hugo Award followers, which shall it be?
Two is still the best bet.
Vox Day on Vox Popoli
“Three options” – May 21
[Commenting on Nick Mamatas’ analysis above.]
This is at least dealing with observable reality, unlike those who fantasize that tinkering with the rules is going to slow down any group that contains at least one individual with a brain, or worse, those who think that MOAR DISQUALIFY is magically going to accomplish anything. So, let’s consider their options from our perspective.
1. Suck it up
This is what they should have done. It would have taken a fair amount of the wind out of our sails. However, most of the potential benefits are now lost since they’ve already motivated our side through their histrionics and media-planted stories.
2. Castigate all campaigning
Won’t happen. Far too many people on their side are guilty of it, and far too many people are already invested in the idea that what is very, very bad for us is just fine for the Tor set and everyone who bought memberships for their children and extended families.
This is the only real option for them now. It’s also the one that is most frightening for them, because it puts an end to their gentleman’s agreement to stick to logrolling and whisper campaigns as long as no one gets too greedy, and forces them to come out and compete in the open. They hate open competition on principle and the idea that they might come out for a fair fight next year and lose will strike them as so terrifying as to be beyond imagining. Furthermore, because they really, really care about winning awards, it’s going to be much harder for them to put together a slate, much less find the numbers to support it in the disciplined manner required now that a bloc of 40 votes is no longer sufficient to put something on the shortlist.
Kate Paulk on Mad Genius Club
“Of Puppies and Principles” – May 21
Anyway, this little piece of anecdata leads to some thoughts about what could be considered the Sad Puppy Manifesto (although it isn’t, since the Sad Puppy organizers were – and are – more interested in doing stuff and getting results from said doings than in writing manifestos….
5. More voters and more votes mean more representative results. In 2008, fewer than 500 nomination ballots were cast for the Hugo awards. There were categories where the nominated works had fewer than 20 votes. In that environment, it doesn’t take much for someone with an agenda and a loyal following to push out anything they don’t like. In 2015, more than 2000 nomination ballots were cast. That makes it harder for things like the Sad Puppies campaigns, or our not at all hypothetical person with an agenda to push out everything else – but it doesn’t make it impossible. More people voting means that absent corruption on the part of the officials (which doesn’t appear to be a factor based on the information that’s publicly available), the results will tend to reflect the desires of the broader public (because the voters are a sample – and by the very nature of statistics, larger samples tend to be more representative of the overall population than smaller samples – and yes, I know it’s not that bloody simple. I’m trying to keep this short and failing miserably).
….So, if you’re a member, read the stories, then decide which way you’re going to vote.
And while you’re at it, review the WorldCon 2017 Site Selection bids and pay your $40 to vote for the one you prefer: you’ll get automatic supporting membership for WorldCon 2017 before the price goes up.
John C. Wright
“The Customer is Always Right” – May 21
….On the 770 blog, that wretched hive of scum and villainy, I unwisely left a gentle remark where I noted that a hiccuping hapless lackwit quoted this passage of fulsome praise to support the contention of my alleged dislike of womankind, rather than taking it as evidence to the clear contrary.
Emma, a zealous Inquisitor of the Thought Police, helps explicate the enigma.
It is difficult for me to untie the Gordian knot of this intestinal bafflegab (madonna/whore ideology?) since I do not have my Morlock-to-Reality dictionary at hand.
John C. Wright
“The Uncorrectors are Never Right” – May 21
I was taught, and experience confirms, that the alleged correction of “the hoi polloi” is the very soul and exemplar of pedantic error and half-learned buffoonery.
No learned man ever offers that correction, and no one ever offers it innocently, but only in vulgar pretense of erudition they do not possess. (A man with a modicum of real education would look in the OED, and see this phase is correct in English.)
Ridley Kemp on Stay With Me, Go Places
“History Will Forget The Sad Puppies” – May 21
If you want my take on the Hugos, I’ll give you this:
In ye olden dayes, the players selected for baseball’s all-star game were elected by public ballots. In 1957, the ballots were being printed in newspapers instead of passed out to the fans at games (as I remember from the 1970’s) or online (as it’s done now). The Cincinnati Enquirer decided to help the fans out a little by printing pre-filled ballots with nothing be Cincinnati ballplayers selected. As a result, the starting lineup for the 1957 National League team consisted of Stan Musial, a St. Louis Cardinal, and 7 cincinnati Reds.
People rightly saw this as a subversion of the process. Ford Frick, the commissioner of baseball, immediately replaced two Reds outfielders, Wally Post and Gus Bell, with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays because, c’mon, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. The remaining Reds were allowed to start the game and then almost immediatley replaced once the game started, and the game looked like an All-Star game once more.
Martin Wisse on Wis[s]e Words
“Puppies wee on your shoulders and tell you it’s rain” – May 21
Nobody with any familiarity of Worldcon fandom’s history and culture believes that it’s dishonest to vote No Award over any nomination that got there through blatant slate voting, or that fans have a duty to be “fair” to nominations which stole their place on the ballot.
Marion on Deeds & Words
“The Hugos, 2015: Chapter Four, What Were They Thinking?” – May 21
To my mind, nowhere is the problem of the bloc-voting and the slate concept better demonstrated than in the Novella Category. Here is the short-list….
If you love short SF, you read a lot of SF magazines, or you enjoy anthologies, that list may be baffling you. You might wonder why, since the Hugos are for the best work of the year, you have probably only read, or even heard of, one of those works. You might wonder why one press, which you’ve never heard of before, has four of the five works on the list.
Having read these works, here’s what I can say with confidence; if the splinter group (who call themselves Rapid Puppies) wanted to demonstrate with this list the kind of fine, solid story-telling that they think is getting overlooked due to the distraction of more “politically correct” fare, they’ve failed abjectly.
The best of the lot is “Flow” by Arlen Andrews Sr. This is the type of the story that the original slate group, the “Sad Puppies” frequently talk about and say they like.
Lis Carey on Lis Carey’s Library
“Amanda S. Green Fanwriter Samples” – May 21
The sample provided is sixteen pages, several different selections of Green’s fanwriting.…
There is no interest or willingness to engage with anyone with whom she disagrees, or even to extend the most basic of respect to fellow human beings. If she disagrees with you, she must also make clear that she disrespects you. A complete waste. This has no place on the Hugo ballot.
Lis Carey on Lis Carey’s Library
“A Single Samurai (in The Baen Big Book of Monsters), by Steven Diamond” – May 21
Let it be noted that Baen, always a leader in trusting the reader with ebooks, included the entire Baen Big Book of Monsters in the Hugo packet, not just the nominated material. Which makes it a shame that I can’t like this story better. It’s not terrible, but at no point does it really grab me.
Brian Niemeier on Superversive SF
“Transhuman and Subhuman Part V: John C. Wright’s Patented One Session Lesson in the Mechanics of Fiction” – May 20
Because so much of storytelling relies on nudging readers’ imaginations to paint the images the writer intends, using stereotypes is inevitable and indispensable.
“What the reader wants not to do is to be asked by the writer to use the stereotype in his head in a tired, trite, shopworn, or expected way, because then the reader notices, and is rightly put off, by the trick being pulled on him.”
Wright thus counsels authors to employ two contradictory stereotypes to describe each character. Bilbo Baggins is a retiring country squire and a supremely accomplished burglar. Kal-El is both mild-mannered reporter and Superman. The tension between these contradictions creates depth.
Joe Sherry on Adventures In Reading
“Thoughts on the Hugo Award Nominees: Fancast” – May 21
Tea and Jeopardy appears to be in a class by itself. It is very slickly produced and seems to take place in the midst of a proper tea party. Again, this was one of the shorter episodes included and the limited run time accentuates what is cool and quirky about it while never letting what works run for too long. It is the most worthy of the nominees, I think. My vote:
1. Tea and Jeopardy
2. Galactic Suburbia
3. Adventures in SF Publishing
4. The Sci Phi Show
5. Dungeon Crawlers Radio
Lis Carey on Amazon
[Lis Carey gave Thomas Kratman’s “Big Boys Don’t Cry” a 2-star Amazon review and ended up in an exchange with Kratman who expressed his displeasure and included a fling at the Hugos.]
[Tom Kratman:] I want the Hugos utterly destroyed, No Awarded in perpetuity. I want “Aces and Eights.” I want the village destroyed and don’t care in the slightest about saving it. The best way to accomplish that is for the SJW types to succeed in getting general No Award votes this time around. So make it a one star and vote “no award.”
Lisa J. Goldstein on theinferior4
“The Hugo Ballot, Part 13: Novellas” – May 21
In “Flow,” by Arlan Andrews, Sr., we follow a crew riding an iceberg down a river to the Warm Lands. The first half of the story is little more than a travelog, as the main character, Rist from the Tharn’s Lands, learns about the Warm Lands from his compatriot, Cruthar. It’s not terrible. The two societies are different in interesting ways, and Rist makes a good naive traveler. But it is, once again, not a story but an excerpt; we’ve already missed the beginning and there is no real ending.
“Hugo Awards: Fanzine” – May 21
Ranking To be honest, nothing really grabbed me in this category. I’m not a Whovian so Journey Planet bored me. Tangent seemed well written, but I would not seek out another copy. Elitist Book Reviews fell below No Award because I can think of a half dozen book blogs that have stronger, more interesting reviews. The Revenge of Hump Day fell below No Award because it was a compilation of stuff other people had sent the editor, and not a particularly interesting compilation at that.
1) Journey Planet
2) Tangent Online
3) No Award
4) Elitist Book Reviews
5) The Revenge of Hump Day
Kevin Standlee on Fandom Is My Way Of Life
“Didn’t Just Fall Off the Turnip Truck” – May 20
From some of the suggestions and questions I’m getting, I think there are people who must think this is the first WSFS Business Meeting over which I’ve presided (even when those people have attended and participated in meetings over which I presided). I also think there are people who think that those of us organizing the Business Meeting haven’t heard anything at all about this Puppygate stuff, and feel the need to explain to me all about it. I suppose they’re all well-meaning, but it does get wearing after a while. Presumably this is what it feels like to be Mansplained to.